Saturday, 31 January 2009

Reality of Iranian Thinking

Today....Iran's leadership decided that President Obama's offer to talk to Iran...demonstrates that America's policy of "domination" has failed. An Iranian spokesperson....Gholam Hossein Elham said: "This request means Western ideology has become passive, that capitalist thought and the system of domination have failed. Negotiation is secondary, the main issue is that there is no way but for (the United States) to change."

In an amusing way, they've cornered the President and invited a number of embarrassing questions if any major change in US policy over Iran occurs. On the other hand, if the President wants to indicate "CHANGE" will take place....the Iranians can quickly sum things up in their own country and show that democracy and capitalist beliefs have failed and Obama admits such (its bogus but hey, this is Iran).

What we could do....is say that capitalism has totally failed, and then suggest they put in 100 Kentucky Fried Chicken enterprises...toss in a Pepsi production facility...and suddenly failed capitalism is ok....as long as its failed capitalism.

Model Boys Set to Score

Somewhere in the midst of this $800-odd billion stimulus package, is a neat and tidy amount of money, arranged for global climate data modeling. Of course, you might perk up here and ask how much? $140 million. Scratching your head? So am I.

I would like to think that there are hundreds of climate model scientists and non-scientists who are unemployed and very much need a job of some type. I went looking. The best I can right now....based on a statement by Pat Michaels (former president of the American Association of State Climatologists)....is that not a single modeler presently...is unemployed. Almost all of their research money is guaranteed via the federal government, although it might draft down via colleges.

So $140 million, for guys who aren't unemployed and probably not going to suffer. So what might this pay for? Well...maybe out of 1,500 different models (I'm assuming) that exist currently (because every modeler is using a different cherry-picked data list)...maybe we will add another 1,000 more models (with more different cherry-picked data lists). Maybe we will send more of the model boys to special conferences in Paris or Bangkok....to stay in 5-star hotels and sip fine wine. Maybe we will be buying the model boys each a new American-made Ford....to help the car industry. Maybe there will be a massive new data storage system developed which we'd naturally call "Cherry-Picker". Perhaps we could simply buy all the model boys some great new hardware, so that model development could be done differently.

So the bottom line? Those model boys are going to score bigtime, unless someone is a jerk and takes the item out. What could regular people have done with $140 million? Two more major bridges completely replaced...but then who cares about American jobs or bad infrastructure?

Aliens, UFOs, and Black Dudes

Larry Wilmore, a comedian and writer....has come out with a new book, entitled: I'd Rather We Got Casinos.

It is a book of a black guy's humorous view of life, blacks, whites, and reality. Amongst his topics....he comes to one that I once pondered. Why is it, that only white guys or gals report aliens or UFOs?

You never have a black guy doing an interview....describing his thoughts on some abduction, some probe, some UFO over their house, or some alien contact. It simply doesn't happen. Oh, I agree...there is that one dude from the 1950s...married to that white gal up in the Northeast....who says they both got kidnapped and probed by the aliens. But after that guy, there just aren't any blacks with stories.

Why is this? I sat and pondered. Black guys typically don't take alot of crap, so maybe aliens avoid them because there might be immediate gunplay. Black guys don't stand around waiting for some visitation....either its poker night, party night with a hot babe, or catching up on ESPN with an associate. They aren't sitting out on the front door step.....watching the stars and looking for UFOs to pass over.

Could aliens be racist in nature and simply refuse meeting with black guys? Well....this is a remote possibility. I've noticed that you never have reports of little black alien dudes or black alien hotties. They all seem to be one generic color or race.

Would a meeting between a typical LA black dude and a alien lead to some disastrous consequences? I'm thinking the LA dude would suggest some black gal meetings.....some booze....some ESPN football....and to hang out with other dudes. The alien might not have the social skills or the ability to grasp why black women are the way they are. I could see some alien dude saying the wrong thing, and having some black gal whomp the heck out of the little poor alien dude. He'd likely limp to the mother ship and tell the other dudes to stay the hell away from black women.

Maybe there is some scientific reason for lack of black alien or UFO reporting. But the longer I think about this....I'm thinking alot of white dudes are plain crazy....and the black guys are sitting there....snickering about the bogus story....and laughing their butt off over some dimwit white dudes.

Flag and Rules

There are some simple rules if you are in the Middle East where flag burning is a daily ritual, especially US or Israel flags.

Rule number one, always stay a good ten feet from anyone messing with the burning flag. Fabic doesn't readily burn (for media purposes), so most of the expert flag-burners use a little bit of gas on the flag to ensure a bright and professional media burn. As the camera guy, you don't want to be part of the event.

Rule number two, if you are stupid enough to stand too close and get dosed with the fuel on your clothing....fire will erupt. Stop, drop and roll on the ground.

Rule number three, flags tend to burn in less than three minutes. Get the shot, the momentum of the moment, and then move on out. If you stay....a bunch of regular guys with no clear agenda will want to chat with you over what they think....and sadly, its pretty widespread....from jobs to their uncle's health. This isn't why you came to a flag-burning.

Rule number four, always ensure that its younger guys handling the burning flag event. These old guys will try to be safe, cautious, and delay a good burning until everyone is ten feet away. Its the young radical dudes who make the best fires because safety is way down on the priority list. The younger guys also look better on TV (they usually have all their teeth) and they have charisma.

Rule number five, flag burning events usually dehydrate you....so plan on carrying a bottle of water with you, and then plan for a bar stop quickly after the event.

Rule number six, flag burns usually aren't that well planned. Some guys will stall, and hold back their flags until they know they've got a real audience. If there are only twelve people standing there....don't count on a flag burning that day.

Rule number seven, flag burning usually takes place in the afternoon...for some unknown reason. Some folks think that everyone is kinda caught up in the morning with the coffee crowd and the discussion of the day. By lunch, they get all hyped and then run off to burn a flag. You might notice that no one burns flags after dark....some kind of logic that you can't see clearly the flag burning in the dark, I would assume.

Just some pondering from my mind this morning.

How to Run a Government

What you notice here in the early days of the Obama period, is that there are a number of "Czars", special envoys, and task forces being created. I sat and looked over this bold new landscape.

With the various special envoys being created, they've more or less regulated Hillary back to "image-secretary" and non-negotiation player. For every chaotic area in the world that the government might have an interest in....this group of special envoys appear to be the real Secretary of State. No one really sits in front of the camera to lay out leadership trails but I would assume that the envoy can call directly to the president and have face-to-face meetings if necessary.

The Czars? This appears to be more of a puppet show. If you have a face attached to a problem, you assume that something is being done. The guy can go on the Today Show, Wolfe Blitzer's show, or even chat with whats left of the New Times. He will explain the problem in Obama-detail, then state their plan....and then walk away. For two or three years, most folks will buy this concept and the value of the Czars. At some point, one of the guys will readily admit on camera that his job is worthless and simply is a PR gimmick.

The task forces? It has terrific PR. You can spend thousands of man-hours on something, and produce a 300 page document detailing what ought to be done....then go out and golf for the remaining two days at the resort that you are having the meeting at. Nothing has to really be accomplished....it just has to look like things are important.

Which of these would I want to be? I'd pick the task force stuff. My three choices would be: (1) The Task Force on Reforming the BCS Bowl Situation, (2) Septic Tank Revival and Reform Task Force, and (3) The Division of Bama into North Bama and South Bama States Task Force. Naturally, I'd like for my meetings to be held in a nice resort, preferably in Arizona. I'd like to have a semi-open bar for the meeting participants....with a fine buffet of food to be offered for breakfast and lunch.

Yes, I am a bit of a cynic and very sarcastic over this entire "game". We've had presidents to do different pieces of all of these....but this time....we've put all the models on the table and maxed out anything historical. More and bigger, is the landscape. A naive guy would sit there and think "RESULTS". Frankly, you've got tons of experts and if you don't achieve results, then the public ought to be asking alot of stupid questions in four years. I believe this is more of a trap, than a tool. It'll be amusing to compare the mileage of Hillary to Condi...in four years. I'm already betting she does half the trips that Condi made.

The positive of all of this? Its kinda like economic stimulus.....you are employing a bunch of guys who might be unemployed. So maybe this is the one bright spot of this entire game.

McCaskill's Dream

This was the week that Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill stood up, and said she was really upset....demanding that Wall Street executives ought to have limits on some of their salaries. Her idea? She wants to force companies taking federal bailout money to limit compensation for any employee to what the president of the United States currently earns: $400,000 a year. As she said: “Is that so unreasonable? It’s eight times the median household income in the United States of America. I don’t think that sounds like a bad deal.”

There are two ways of looking at this. First, you have company boards now, which are very willing to hand out $20 million or even $200 million...to have "their" CEO onboard. In most cases, the board is the one controlling this method of "madness" (if it even is madness). If you dug into the board members...you'd find that most companies in the big-boy range are paying the board folks around twenty-five percent of whatever they are paying the CEO (exception to the $200 million guys). Salary madness is a problem, but then when you enter a candy store...are you capable of controlling your urges and only buying what you came to buy?

The second way of looking at this....is that the CEO is chiefly responsible for the success or failure of a company. A real leader, will boldly make decisions and push profits to a higher margin. We can all look over at Enron and suggest that they hired a guy who understood nothing about business, and he was there for cosmetic reasons only. But then we could turn around to any number of other businesses in the US...where the CEO is the driving force of the company.

Frankly, if the Senator's idea is so good...why not limit everyone to the president's salary? Why are we paying a second-rate relief pitcher for the Yankees $6 million a year? Why are we letting CBS pay a second-rate journalist millions a year to run the nightly newscast but she really doesn't draw anyone (yes, Ms Couric). Why do we have experts for think-tanks in the US drawing a $1 a year....to mostly stand ready to answer questions on CNN while a major event occurs?

What would happen if the Senator gets to play ball and insert this into law? You'd watch one of two things occur. Either a mass number of CEOs would simply retire and you'd find only a limited number of folks who'd want to be a CEO at that range of pay....meaning you got a second-rate guy running a company and helping to dissolve it one way or another.....or you'd have companies refusing government help or bailout, then bankrupting themselves in a honest American sort-of-way. You might actually have Senators weeping on TV about a massive American economic downturn and offering trillions of dollars to companies...and they refuse to accept the package deal because of the pay deal.

Just another night in America.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Stimulus Weed, Smoke a Bit

Just so you know....because Senator Sparky from the Democrats didn't want to talk about this....part of the stimulus includes tax credits of $500 per worker and $1,000 per couple. The nifty thing about this....is that you don't need a social security number. The idiots actually wrote the deal up.....where you just need a individual taxpayer identification number in order to qualify. So your friends from foreign countries....get the same deal.

Don't forget, this is YOUR stimulus package.

Middle-Class Working-Families Task Force

Fighting Joe Biden was appointed today....with pen and paper....to form up the Middle-Class Working-Families Task Force (hereby named MCWFTF, for short).

Somewhere in the midst of this formation....the President indicated that he wanted poor families to know that they weren't forgotten. This is simply because the White House for so many years (he didn't say eight but he didn't say sixteen years either).....had not helped the middle class of America. He indicated that he considered, as a emphasis to this effort, that labor unions are part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

I sat there for a while thinking about this. Usually, when some political figure lumps you into a special group....it means you just got screwed in some fashion....either with too many rules or laws, or you lost some tax credit advantage. In this case, I doubt that anyone in the middle class really gets anything that they'd want to brag about to grandma or their old high school math teacher.

Having "Fighting Joe" run this? Well....Joe doesn't have alot of fancy projects and to be honest, he'd appreciate getting some work outside of the White House where he could travel, eat free food, and meet new people. Joe won't complain about this deal.

The media? Well.....they gushed about this.....like some fancy date at a prom. It was like getting kissed by Brittney Spears.

How much mileage will the team get out of this? To be honest, they can proudly proclaim just about anything in four years....even if they just meet once a year in Jackson, Mississippi, and consume some kind of budget. I'm guessing at least three or four million is budgeted for this effort....free drinks and finger-food mostly....at nice hotels or resorts. The neat thing is that they will meet on Monday.....work half of Tuesday....golf all afternoon on Tuesday....repeat this cycle for Wed, Thur, and then on Friday....all meet to say good-bye and fly back home.....compliments of the US government.

Pretty nice deal for the Middle-Class Working Families Task Force.

How Things Change

Years ago, when I was a young Air Force member, we had "dorm managers". This was a simple job for a young NCO, who managed the operation and the "protection" of the barracks.

To be honest, it was a loser job and where you stuck guys who were going to be kicked out or disciplined heavily. They generally asked for volunteers and rarely got anyone who'd take the job. I remember once asking a guy what he did....for this one-year period, and he simply laughed. He barely showed up for thirty hours of work a week, although it was supposed to be a full time job. He had a refrigerator in the office, where he kept cases of beer, which he drank from mid-afternoon on. He knew every illicit affair going on in the barracks and every bit of dirt on folks. This was the guy who got drunk one Friday night at a barracks party and was found the next day in his underwear.....about 300 feet from the parking lot....passed out.

Today's base paper....had a quarter page write-up....wanting to advertise for dorm managers. They stressed it was a highly desirable job with lots of opportunity to be recognized and honored. Highly capable professionals were urged from the base ranks....to apply for the dozen jobs they were going to advertise.

I kinda sat there. I remember this job in a slightly different light. I don't remember professionals being in the position. I don't remember this being a great opportunity. And I don't remember it being highly desirable.

Maybe things have changed. Maybe, but I seriously doubt it.

Stimulus

Stimulus is an awful hard concept to grasp.

The reality of the concept for economics...is that you are triggering something that will shift positive numbers and help gain momentum. The $819 billion stimulus package has been questioned since day one. If you asked will it trigger a momentum push from day one.....the answer is yes. If you asked if you could delete half of the $819 billion and still get the same amount of momentum.....that answer might very well be yes as well.

Today, the "gang of fourteen" arose in the Senate. For Bush, this was a very tight and middle-of-the-road group with both Republican and Democrat leadership in it. These fourteen folks made the Bush projects very difficult.....particularly for the federal judge episodes. The tide now is turning....against the Obama crew.

I suspect that by the end of next week.....the "gang of fourteen" will have settled a great deal of debate and shifted momentum of this bill to rebuild itself. They could find various parts of this package which irritates the Republicans and trim almost $200 billion off the amount. For Pelosi, its a win, but a soft win. Considering the fact that the states are lined up and waiting for this to pass before they haul their $1 trillion package up....anything here that passes....is positive.

For the Obama team, this is an amusing episode. They could have passed the entire package through the House and the Senate, with 10 percent less fat on this, with zero support from the Republicans. There never was any need to make them happy. I suspect now that a small number of Democratic senators had issues from day one, and they already knew that they would have trouble.

The truth of the matter is that the "real" Democratic party has maybe 30 members in the senate and the "real" Republican party has maybe 20 members. And the other fifty are simply pretenders who will vote on both sides of the aisle. Few people grasp the composition of the senate and realize that most of these guys aren't absolutely dedicated to their party line.

There will be stimulus in the end, and it might help a small bit.....but the honest truth is that you could do the same thing with $400 billion, that you could do with $800 billion. That ought to make you stand and think about the reality of this mess.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Our Daydreams

The USA Today says....half of America wants to live elsewhere.

Its an interesting article, with a survey conducted by the Pew folks.

I sat and pondered it most of the day. To be honest, if you asked me....yeah, YEAH, I'd really like to live elsewhere. I've been here in this area and region for 15 years now. I'd generally move just about anywhere (except New Jersey, New York City, St Louis, Paris, anywhere in Asia or the Middle East, the whole state of California, Miami, Memphis, New Orleans, Bolivia, Egypt, and Moscow. That leaves two thirds of the globe pretty much available to me.

The poll is correct....most folks daydream constantly and see a magazine featuring Coos Bay.....then they start thinking of a small town....and they get this itch to move. The problem is.....if they did pack up and move there....then they'd notice a bunch of drunks on Friday and Saturday night....a redneckish attitude in the local area....no real urban things that city folks enjoy.....and a fairly rural mentality although its Oregon-minded. After a month or two....half of the daydreamers would start thinking of a new place to move.....and then move on.

Its the same problem with folks who move to Florida and wake to realize that there is crime in Florida, too many old folks who can't drive well, high taxes, and southern values clouded by political persuasion.

Where would I move? In a damn perfect world.....I'd likely find some off-beat British village in the middle of nowhere, with a bunch of fairly crazy people. I'd like to have access to British papers everyday. I'd like to have fish and chips for lunch each day. I'd like to have a MG which is mostly for show and not for operating. I'd like to have a red-haired lass tell me I'm wrong but in an authentic Brit accent.

The truth is.....I'm Bama.....and you really can't take the Bama out of me. It doesn't work that way. You could move me to Manhattan, and I'd still be Bama. You could dress me up in a kilt at a Scottish castle, and I'd still be Bama. I might be able to move anywhere, but then I would always display in a Bama sort of way. So tonight, as I rest my head upon the blanket, and dream of a moving truck heading to Alaska.....it'll be a wonderful evening of sleep....and a great fantasy.

Chicago Tough

Various news outlets today carried the Obama reaction to snow in DC. Basically, the President came out and said that Washington folks need "Chicago toughness" and not act like wussies when some snow falls.

I paused here. "Chicago toughness"?

Throughout my life, I've had these toughness-ism's thrown at me. Here in the military sphere, there is "Army tough", which is supposed to be pretty badass. I'm thinking the Marines also have some expression like this (Marine tough). We Air Force folks are lucky and feel generally ok when we are referred to as "Air Force Wussies".

I used to work with a guy who described the streets of Memphis, and how you had to be "Memphis tough". He was mostly a ladies man, and I kept wondering if his version of tough was more of a Don Juan type lover.

Fans of the Steelers will say that "Steeler Tough" is awful damn strong, but then the Phoenix crowd might argue and say "Cardinal Tough" is good enough to beat "Steeler Tough".

I'm pretty sure that Governor Palin will say that "Alaska Tough" is four times stronger than "Chicago Tough".

Brittney Spears would likely argue that "Louisiana Tough" is more than enough for "Hollywood Tough".

So there are lots of versions of tough out there. As for the DC crowd....just drag your snow shovels out and act like real men....and show that "DC Tough" is more than enough. Maybe this will trigger some kind of tough guy competition in DC with a bunch of folks showing up to show how tough they are. We could use that kinda atmosphere right now.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Our British Friends

The Times reports today (meaning the one and only Times...UK of course) that British Conservative Party leader David Cameron has made a vow. If elected to be Prime Minister....he will overnight....end UK government secrecy over UFOs and extraterrestrials.

David says bluntly....he wants to be "entirely open and frank" about alien dudes.

Shocking, to say the least.

One has to wonder, if McCain had such a promise....if things might have been different.

So what does this do for David's chances? Britain is not the US....its a country made of elites, rock stars, brilliant basement geniuses, Amy Winehouse, comedians, the queen, Lords, lost souls, sons of Shakespeare, actresses who make you weep, former MG mechanics who work at a day job and spend six hours in their private garage at night trying to rebuild the "MG-dream", two punk princes who'd like to cruise Arizona on Harleys, mad men, and drunk women whose husbands had sex-change operations.

This is the sad truth. Its a country on the verge of carrying the world...based on their brilliance or their wit. And somehow, they are stumbling along....with a bit of humor or ale in their system.

It would be humorous if David got elected and opened up the vault...to find three slim folders sitting there...one detailing the way to change the combination of the vault, a second detailing the way to classify data in the vault, and a third mentioning a visit in 1936 by aliens...which didn't go very well...with the aliens leaving the plans on how to build the MG as their "gift" to mankind.

Would I vote a guy in....just to open up alien and UFO vaults? Well...I'm thinking we've voted idiots into office in the US for reasons of a similar quality. Maybe it'd make things just a tad more interesting.

Grassley and Porn

Apparently, we've got another congressional investigation of sorts starting up. There is a story from yesterday that a top member of the Senate Finance Committee (Senator Chuck Grassley) launched an inquiry into reports that National Science Foundation officials were using their office CPUs....government property....to view porn during working hours. From what we can figure out....there were several internal investigations about abuse of computer systems...and they were mentioned in minor detail in the government agency's semi-annual report.

The one item that did go into detail....lays out the basic story of a NSF "senior official"....who was apparently spending around 20 percent of his work hours "viewing sexually explicit" Web sites. When this all got figured up....it came to around $58,000 in employee compensation, which they apparently went back and identified...and forced this guy into coughing the money up.

Grassley, amusingly enough....wants the NSF to disclose all "specific reports of investigations, audit reports, evaluations and information supporting the examination of the NSF network drive" by tomorrow....to "ensure that NSF properly fulfills its mission to strengthen scientific and engineering research, and makes responsible use of the public funding provided for these research disciplines."

I kinda laughed about this. First, each case is confidential between the individual and the organization, plus the investigating officer. I would have some doubts that they can pull out every single investigation and show every single detail. As for why Grassley needs to acquire all the data and micromanage this...is unknown. Although, one might suspect that the chief of the organization brought this guy in...took him to the audit guys, and made him pay up. He is likely still at the organization still today. Maybe thats Grassley's problem...who knows.

This is the thing that I really can't understand about using office networks or CPUs to cruise porn sites. Its utterly stupid and lays a tremendous trail out. I've seen around a dozen folks over the past decade on the base I work at....which got figured out and ended up with punishment (not just financial in nature, but losing a stripe). In each single case, they routinely went to the guy's house and searched his CPU for illegal porn. If the guy was really lucky....he didn't have any. But in most of these cases, they found additional stuff which was very illegal and simply got them deeper into trouble.

Before the computer age, all of these guys simply collected up video tapes and hardly ever got into trouble at the office or at home. But it seems like over the past fifteen years.....we've gone into a new age where guys get addicted and really don't understand the ease of tracking them or their stupidity.

So maybe the bottom line here....if we tune into Grassley's episode....we might find a few new porn sites identified in the ceremony (I'm hoping Grassley asks them for the exact site)......maybe he just wants some better sites to cruise to.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Rush and Obama: Tag Team Partners?

When Friday came to an end, and the Obama team laid out the challenge for the Republicans to distance themselves from Rush Limbaugh....I just sat there shaking my head in disbelief. They were inviting themselves into a conflict of sorts with some radio announce....and not moving forward.

So over the weekend....Rush naturally came out swinging. He's addressing the entire stimulus package and putting these guys into a tight position. They should have never mentioned his name....but it's like they wanted trouble.

The Rush plan is rather simple.....make the package one trillion dollars, and give the Obama team around $540 billion to spend as they want....and then the other $460 billion are to be tax credits for business operations and real people. Since Obama wanted to insist that he won the election...the Rush plan simply splits the money 54 percent to 46 percent.....as silly as one can get.....and then Rush's scheme is to use Reagan tactics to give tax credits back to stimulate the economy.

In some simplistic manner, tax credits have traditionally helped the economy heal its wounds. In this case here, I'd have some doubts, but there simply isn't a sure fire way of knowing how well it'll work. Adding to this misery....is the fact that so much of the $800 billion that Obama was talking about.....has little to do about sustaining jobs or coming into play this year.

The pains of pushing fast on this entire deal? The admnistration has to clear this out of the way before the states rush in and ask for another trillion for their own money....expected by late Feb. This isn't a great timetable to work with. If the Republicans stall....and nothing happens for two weeks.....then the states have to start worrying about their timeline and if two masive bailouts can co-exist (I doubt they can both pass at the same time).

Meanwhile, Rush is sitting there....kinda laughing because he's supposed to be a non-player. And now, he's actually a Obama player in this soap opera of sorts. Its almost like a wrestling match....with the evil guys becoming the good guys, then switching over to evil again.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Age Discrimination

It is an odd subject to blog, but someone brought this up....and I pondered it a bit today.

For fifteen years, I've been living in Germany, where they've taken age discrimination to a level of being a science. There is this expression called "mobbing". Basically, its where members of a organization or the management...pile on the individual involved....who might even be in their mid-40s....but typically mid-50s, and get them out of the company. Usually, they will line up tasks that the individual simply can't do (usually involving technology), and document the problems. Then they offer up a year of salary to leave the company. The guy originally thinks its a good deal to leave, but later finds that no one will hire them at 54 years old. Court cases? On some cases, it can happen, but after you accept the money to leave, its practically impossible to get a real case out of this.

German state workers are famous for being retired early because this "mobbing".

When I first got German-taxed in 1999....I had to visit the county tag office and German-tag my vehicles. When I walked into the county tag office....I came to discover a dozen employees....all in their late 40s to late 50s. No computers, no automation other than typewriters at each clerks point. I came to discover quickly....none of the folks were helpful or cooperative. They wasted ten minutes discussing my paperwork and then determined it wouldn't pass.....I'd have to leave and redo it....and come back again, this after 45 minutes of waiting in the outer hall. When I did come back, it took almost 30 minutes to process two simple pieces of paper.

In 2005, I returned to the tag office.....shocked at waiting barely three minutes.....then walking in to find not a single person over the age of 25. They took my paperwork.....found an error but fixed it there on the spot, then took the keyboard of the computer and input the data in three minutes. I paid the fee, and left seven minutes after I had entered.

I made this comment to my mechanic a few weeks later and he laughed over the change. He explained....sometime in 2004....the German federal government came out with a computerized system and required everyone to switch over. They were totally prepared to provide all the training necessary, and even offered it months ahead of time. The local chief of this tag office thought all would go ok. As training came and went....the trainer basically came over and said that the old employees simply weren't cooperating and most showed no enthusiasm for this change.

Eventually, the office was in turmoil with "change" coming. So the older guys near 60....were offered some kind of early pension deal, and the ones in their early 50s....got some type of position that required a move to another office (with no computers). The second group was upset over being moved....wanting to be paid off to retire or else stay there in the tag office. There wasn't any discussion over the matter.

So the entire office left, and the young replacements came in. There was a total attitude change overnight....they helped to fix paperwork and adapted quickly to simply getting people in, and getting out.

Failure to change.....failure to adapt....failure to accept a new landscape.....all were problems that they simply couldn't recognize.

I've spent the last ten years associated with the military, after my retirement. They have a preference for older guys. We had skills and the ability to quickly bring people up a notch. I have become a "reverse coach". Basically, the players come to me, and ask for help, guidance, or advice on how to conduct a project. I spend ten minutes, an hour or even an entire day....helping a guy understand the big picture and develop his project. I probably adapted the opposite attitude of most....accept all changes, learn to adapt, and agree to new landscapes. I will rarely turn down a class, unless I see zero value.

I have to agree with the concept of new careers....new training....new directions. I'm not of the mind that entire new bachelor's degree is necessary, and I would imagine this is a pretty drastic selection with relative little value attached to it. I'm more of the mind of what a community college offers....with a 1-year certificate program....probably revalues a career, and shows more value to a employer.

The truth is....even if you had adequate funds to retire at 55 years old....most of us probably don't want to retire. The hobbies and free time might be great, but we'd really like to keep ourselves occupied for 8 hours a day.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

The Recovery Plan

After the brief comment suggesting to the Republicans to abandon Rush Limbaugh...came the urgent demand from President Obama to pass the recovery plan immediately.

So with urgency in the air...there must be some issue here. I hate pulling out stimulus packages and reading them for content...after 200-odd pages loaded with grants for mob museums in Chicago, $200k grants to study catfish in Arkansas, and $40 million grants for trail renovation at some national forest....you get to a point where you hate grasping what they do to the American public. Recovery plans are no better.

So I found several short and direct explanations for the Obama recovery plan.

There at the top of my list...$300 cash payment to all social security folks, disabled folks, and military veterans (of course, I'm one of them). I suddenly perked up...this was like the Bush stimulus check....just less. $300 for me? Man, I could buy a new set of tires, I could buy the DVD for the last season of Lost, and maybe even get a fine new pair of shoes.

To be kinda honest, for all of us in this $300 circle....this money will come and go quickly. Some folks will run off to casinos to toss it to blackjack. Some will buy tickets to visit their relatives. Some will toss it to a new TV or a new computer. Its a short-term gain. Maybe this is positive because the public will spend it as quickly as they get it.

For taxes, there is a $500 per worker or $1000 per couple tax cut for two years. That helps in some small fashion, but for me....I'll admit I haven't paid more than $300 for American taxes ever in my life (that military pay never amounted to a huge sum and my current check is German-taxed).

There is a nice $7500 tax credit for middle-income, first-time home buyers....but you have to make the purchase between now and July. How many folks feel encouraged to buy a house right now? Not that many. How many have the down-payment for a place (most banks are suggesting a real down-payment now)? Well...this is a huge question mark.

There's a $31 billion tax credit for renewable energy production, which would make tax credits for energy-efficient homes more generous. But in these bad economic times....will people pull extra money out of their pocket to expand in this direction? This is not a period when someone would feel comfortable about expanding a business.

$27 billion got reserved for road and bridge construction and repair. But to be honest...that will be split among fifty states. Basically....each might get two or three major bridges rebuilt entirely and repair maybe a dozen others...and that's the end of that fund. It will barely scratch the surface.

$20 billion was supposed to repair schools. Split amongst fifty states...with hundreds of schools in serious structural trouble....that fund will go quickly.

$9 billion will go to increased access to broadband. Hint for you urban areas...you will all have networks established. Hint for you country folks...you are still screwed. Hint to Cisco....man, you guys are going to make a killing here. Hint for lifecycle planning folks...once they establish this urban requirement...they will come back every four years to expand or replace the hardware. You guys have got lots of work coming up. And you budget guys....just stand there and shake your hands because none of this is cheap.

The $1.4 million for western water projects? This is an interesting shake for political figures in Arizona, New Mexico, California, Nevada, and Colorado. Somehow, the Colorado River has to be unhooked from the current future because it simply won't provide what they all need. The problem is....where do you get this massive source of water for growing communities? This massive fund could build a massive pipe from Montana or even Canada...but do folks want to "ship" water down to the southwest?

Finally...amongst what I saw...was this $100 billion for state educational grants. This is questionable in a stalled economic period. Jobs that might end up being generated in this period...probably won't be the highly educated type....yet we'd trick ourselves into thinking otherwise.

Should the Republicans just sign on? Hell yes! I want my $300 and they should just accept it. Well...maybe I should think of the big picture more.

If this was such a great idea...it would create confidence in the economy and generate growth. Its hard to find lots of confidence-building measures in this plan.

If I were to accept this package...then it'd be under the concept of being Obama Recovery Plan 1.0....knowing that each and every year would come at least one other Recover Plan...and by the eigth year....we'd have around fourteen of these plans....with trillions spent. The positive of all this mess....we'd probably pave every single walking trail in America by the end....and we'd all discover this massive plan was part of the entire agenda from day one.

Maybe this is the answer....but I have doubts.

The C-SP*N Belt

After long and extended analysis....since my episode with the C-SP*N empire (hereby referred to as the "Holy Grail episode").....I've come to an interesting discovery.

Naturally, I crunched my blog numbers. Typically, I get 14 hits a day.....half are daily, weekly or occasional readers and the rest are accidental discoveries. Friday was the "Holy Grail episode", it went up to around 360 hits.

Strangely enough....internationally....my Mexico count jumped tremendously (1 hit, but the guy read a couple of different pages).

So I began to look at the US stat's, and suddenly came to realize that there was a "belt" developing. I could identify a reasonable trend.

From New York state, over to Minnesota, and down along Illinois, to the Alabama/Mississippi border. This was the higher hit region from this "Holy Grail episode". This was the C-SP*N belt. Oh, I'll toss in Texas and California....which were obvious as well.

But then, here was Rhode Island and Mississippi.....only one visit each. Here was Hawaii, one visit. Here was Delaware and New Hampshire with two visits each. Kansas and Maine....four visits each. A lot of the western states were 6 or less.

So I came to realize....besides the "rust belt", the "Bible belt", the "delta belt", the "cotton belt", the "sun belt", the "black belt", the "corn belt", the "Borscht belt", the "frost belt", the "Jello Belt", the "rice belt", the "snow belt", and the "stroke belt"....that we can now add a "C-SP*N belt".

I could probably take this to another level and ask a "Mainer" why I got so few hits, but I suspect his answer might be that he's got better things to do than watch TV or play computer all day. From the few Mainers I know...they aren't the type to sit around (unless sipping a beer).

So I am closing the "Holy Grail episode". Never again will I gaze upon the Holy Grail or offer commentary. I'll stick with Brittney Spears, Nancy Pelosi, and corruption in Chicago....they are "safer" to blog.

It Did't Run Perfect, But It Was Close

Its an odd affair. The inaugural didn't really go off as planned, but awful close. There are likely twenty thousand lines of plans involved in the task of the day, and its probably one of the most impossible tasks that you'd ever want to get involved in.

Somewhere in the midst of Tuesday....people who had tickets....which meant you could be up close.....got herded into the 3rd Street Tunnel and basically got stopped or slowed down drastically. They didn't reach their destination, and they didn't see the ceremony that they had paid for.

I looked around the internet on this strange topic....tickets for the inauguration. There really aren't a lot of stories over the history of "tickets". Bush used them, and so did Clinton. It appears like anyone before Johnson....didn't use the device. So I would guess somewhere after 1970...it became a standard of sorts.

The organizing crew who runs this whole ticket business....got a huge number of complaints, and they are really hot water. They came to announce a second swearing in (a do-over), which you could come over to and have your picture taken. I didn't see numbers mentioned, but I doubt it was anything but a small group.

The amusing thing left now....is this Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. They say it was a terrible action and have apologized. Then the committee said that it intends to investigate what went wrong. If you had to pick anything for a congressional committee to waste its time on....it'd probably be this. What? They need a special prosecutor or something? Please no, not that. Would they need to have open hearings for CNN to cover live to the nation (preferably at 9PM and for two hours at a whack)?

One of the absolute worst inaugurations ever held....was the Andrew Jackson event. By early morning, a majority of the audience was drunk. By late after.....the vast number of the audience was drunk. And as evening hours crept in and parties were held to celebrate President Jackson....everyone was wasted. I had a professor whose period of expertise was the 1820s to 1860. He graphically tossed out an image of hard alcohol and drunks fighting each over on the streets of DC (typically what happens at night in DC now).

So, I feel sorry for these guys who got shut out. They wasted hours driving to DC, and hours trying to get into the event area....then hours trying to escape from DC.

Upset? I'm betting they are extremely upset. How much did they pay? Thats something you can't be sure of. I can only make a guess that most bought their tickets via a 3rd party and probably paid $500 for four tickets which they thought were fairly up close. Pretty sad way to engage a inaugural episode....someone has to make a profit.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

The Thrill of a Lifetime

Somewhere amongst everything that happened this week....there was a short announcement of the President now set to get a daily economic briefing from top advisers. Of course, its modeled after the daily intelligence briefing that he currently gets from the CIA. What little is said in the press about this...is that the deepening recession is as serious as the military threat to America...which most would readily agree to the basic idea here.

The sad thing is that involves an economic expert of some type....well versed in the 500-odd economic principals that exist...a graduate of Harvard or Yale...and likely prepared to drop 10-pound anvil-like words on the President to test his listening ability.

On the President's side...he has to sit there five times a week...at least twenty minutes at a whack and gratefully receive this dumping of economic data. For most of us....at ninety-five percent...this would be verbal torture to know that each day you had to listen to some guy dump sixteen slides of economic data on you, and you had to grasp what each meant and what he had to react to.

If Burger King and McDonalds suddenly show a 20-25 percent drop in sales...should you react, or wait a month?

If Pepsi suddenly has misfortune and loses eight percent of its sales to Coke...is it enough to trigger a meeting between Pepsi and Coke...to work out a deal?

If a rich but possibly corrupt Mexican business man suddenly shows up to buy the New York Times...is this a serious economic problem or simply the way that things are slated to go?

If the IHOP folks suddenly find breakfast sales are lagging...should the President declare a national breakfast emergency and offer Fed coupons?

Personally, I'd have to have this briefing around early morning hours, when I was fresh. If this were a 2PM briefing...I'd be in serious trouble and sipping a big cup of coffee prior to the briefing.

Does it help? This is a long moment of pondering. He might get smarter and more capable of answering media questions. He might be able to grasp very difficult economic ideas more easily after six months. He might eventually realize that some programs he wants to push...aren't worth pushing.

Presently, I'm hoping that this is it for daily briefings. If things got bad enough...and the Pentagon demanded a daily brief...the global warming crew demanded to give their daily brief....and the Homeland Security guy demanded that he give a brief...then this would really tear out a major portion of your day, and probably trigger a guy to get all stressed out by lunch.

Hometown Corruption

There has been a federal case brewing in my hometown (in Bama). I will leave out the name of the town, and the names of the players involved, but its a fascinating bit of corruption.

Farmer Joe got ahead in life...made some money. Farmer Joe eventually discovered that he could buy small tracts of property (in the boonies of Bama), but near significant towns. So he'd buy a 20-acre tract cheaply, pull a dozer in, and clear up timber and make it attractive. Then Joe would turn around quickly and sell this in two or three acre tracts...making 50 percent profit over his investment. In the beginning, this worked fine using his own money for the first purchase or two.

The Joe got to thinking big and needed more money, so he borrowed....repeating the same tactic....buy cheap property, dozer and clean it, and resell quickly.

No one knows when or how....but Joe eventually got to a point where he didn't sell as fast, and he had to sell for less.

At some point, Joe lost serious money.

So Joe was at a point of quitting (least he'd like to make us think that), when someone came up from the Bama teacher's credit union....and figured out a scheme to arrange for loans to occur....for very short periods....and no real checking on Joe's background or the deal involved. An insider was involved, of course.

So Joe continued on...and got deeper into debt.

The day came when an audit finally occurred at this branch of the savings and loan, and the Fed's got called. The loan approval officer and Joe got called in.

Charges were drawn up. Basically, Joe had lost around $6 million for the savings and loan. He had some property in his hand....and I'm assuming that they somehow took control of that....but I seriously doubt that it was worth even half of the $6 million.

Joe was sorry.

This week, the Fed case occurred in Decatur, Alabama. It was a jury episode. Somehow, Joe was declared innocent at the end. Even my brother shook his head at this innocence. Its likely that no one in the community believes this guy's innocence at all...and I would guess that most agree that he ought to do some time (not twenty years of course, but some time).

Whats left? I would guess that the credit union will sue him for personal damages and try to seize as much as they can from his personal property. They are out this cash to some degree, but they won't admit in public what the number is.

The mere idea to me...of some local guy...going and getting $6 million in loans to buy property...is the amusing part of this story. I could understand half a million for a farm but this was pure land speculation. So its just another day in the heartland, with corruption reaching down into the weeds.

The Rocky Start

Rather than move on and get projects started and progressing...Friday had a nifty episode where Republicans were warned by President Obama that they need to quit listening to Rush Limbaugh...as if it really mattered. Well over half of the Republican public or conservative side of America today...don't listen to Rush, period. Of the remaining half...a fair portion simply view this as "entertainment" and little else. This "warning" is apparently an effort to get the Republican side in line with the Democrat side.

"You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done," President Obama spoke as he chatted over the $1 trillion stimulus package.

To counter some Republic critic in the room.....he gave a quick comment to make his point. "I won," he said, according to aides who were briefed on the meeting. "I will trump you on that." As the months go by and the Republicans counter the White House efforts on several projects....you can already guess their comeback...."We won...we trumped you on that."

Simply dragging Rush Limbaugh's name out...to "scare" folks...won't do alot of positive things. Remember, we've gone through eight years of Clinton and eight years of Bush.

The best advice here...move on with projects and simply start showing reward for effort. Blaming things or trying to scare folks with the name of Rush Limbaugh....isn't making any positive traction. I'm hoping a month or two down the road...things improve, and we are simply looking at a rocky first week start. If this is the trend for the next four years...then we've got major issues.

Friday, 23 January 2009

High-Tech White House

There are bits and pieces of stories today of how the new Obama team are arriving and not feeling adequate in what technology exists in the White House. They have also hinted to a small degree of too much control with the security folks who control the "media empire" of the White House. To make the President happy over losing his Blackberry, it now appears that a secure-Blackberry has been given to him. The term of "uncrackable" has been tossed on this secure-Blackberry.

I paused for a while and pondered this moment of technology. I would imagine that tonight....over three hundred hackers are thinking on how to crack into the President's "uncrackable" Blackberry.

The curious thing is that there is probably a "funnel" somewhere...where personal emails of friends and associates can send their emails where they rest on some server, get reviewed by someone, who tosses them over into some bin where they get transmitted to the president.

Finding out the address of the emails...will likely occur by Tuesday...with the address handed out to thousands of people by the end of next week.

There will be turmoil within a week or two by the technology staff at the White House....having to create a new email address for the President, and then letting his friends know what this one is. Then a repeat of this entire exercise again.

Eventually, you will see a secure-Blackberry that is used less and less. It'll be strictly for office correspondence or internal White House memo-sharing. Most of the staff will be deeply upset over the continual tough security regulations handed to them. In the real world....they have their firewall and enough security to do their work....this will crimp their style.

Virus issues? Spam? Technology that interferes with other technology? Microsoft products that don't work? Secure tools that limit input and output? Yep...its life for a high-technology team. The geeks who work in the White House....EARN their paycheck.

New York's Senator

The Governor got around to announcing the new Senator for New York....Rep Kirsten Gillibrand. She had a fair bit of positive press over the past year.....at least from local New York press. The amusing thing today....watching the reaction....was this strange commentary from a handful of Democrats who felt she was NOT the best choice. She apparently didn't think much of the financial rescue package from last fall, which the majority of New York Democrats supported in some fashion. Then there is this issue of Kirsten having been given a positive read by the NRA (National Rifle Assocation for you folks from Cape Cod). Apparently, her family had always had a hunter's prospective on hunting and weapons.

So for better or worse, New York got its pick. I think they got a decent pick. The only problem I see is that she has barely two years to get state-wide attention before the next election. She needs issues and answers....and a positive spin by the NY press.

Reality

I wrote a simple blog over C-SPAN yesterday. Once a year, I'll pick topic that tics folks off....so this was it. Its a curious thing....I really didn't cut down C-SPAN, and I thought I kinda made it clear.....C-SPAN is about real people....not slanted info or topics that go way off into distant directions. A guy sitting at his desk could find out everything he needed on a DC political topic in 30 minutes with C-Span. Its not Fox, it's not Time, it's not Newsweek, it's not anything other than real people with facts, not fiction.

So, now that I've sprinkled the field with my positive.....I'll offer the negative....which was obvious from the commenting.

First, there are people absolutely obsessed with C-SPAN....to be handled as though it was "Jesus Christ" or "the Holy Grail". After cutting off commentary....I'd say 90 percent felt that I had came too far negative against "the Holy Grail". I could have written negative about Brittney Spears, and likely only generated one or two negative comments.

Second, when I said some folks were watching an awful lot of C-SPAN....I got the impression that twenty percent of the commenterS were doing more than just an hour a day of the show. It reminded me of commenting on folks who watch the "700 Club" or the PTL crowd and would do twelve hours a day of each if they could. They are....deeply religious folks who were terribly concreted to some Christian belief....but went completely overboard in attaching that belief to some TV show. I see some commenters in the same arena. I believe if I monitored these folks who do eight to twelve hours...they probably spend another two or three hours trying to talk to relatives or friends or neighbors over their "beliefs" (kinda like a deeply religious person), and then find that some folks eventually don't want to talk politics at all. They can't understand why someone doesn't want to chat over Stimilus Bill #2146, and why people can't readily cite twenty-six facts about failed social security. If you've began to notice fewer folks wanting to chat over politics....ask yourself why.

Third, I got the impression that fifteen percent of the commenting crowd weren't that articulate, or else had a pretty rough night....maybe doing a shot of bourbon every time a guy from CNN said the word "Obama". The other eighty percent were fairly intelligent and simply defended "their" show. I can understand that crowd to some degree. The other fifteen percent probably ought to shift over to shots of Pepsi.

What I will suggest here....reviewing feelings in 1850 and comparing them against today....is that we are generating the same hostile generation all over again.

While a great majority of the commenting was associated with people saying that they were "keeping in touch" with DC and its constant business of government....they were admitting that they were far more intelligent on matters that they might have been twenty years ago. The problem is that they are quickly assessing and recognizing the significant amount of issues, corruption, and turmoil that exists today. Some (a handful) readily admitted that its (the national government) something that bothers them.....which it does me (I got this way over eight years ago).

So on one hand, C-SPAN is the great educator of the people....but on the other hand....the people are reaching a point where they really feel a daily "pain" over governmental affairs. Everyone wants to say how they influence things by writing letters or email to their senator, congressman or President. They feel this accomplishes something. The aggravation that is building up....is something though that continually pops up and becomes weapons of verbal destruction at church meetings, family reunions, trailer parks, bars, and office water-coolers. If you noticed my list here of places I mentioned.....its where REAL people hang out.

So I'm going back to a comment that I made long ago and largely stand by. We used to talk about politics and DC business alot less. In the 1960s, we barely knew one of our two senators in the state, probably could name the President but not the Vice-President, and most of representatives or senators barely showed up fifty percent of the time to vote or say anything. There were sports reporters who covered Washington Senator's games....reporting numerous real senators sitting in the stands....rather than at work in the capital. Every four years....for a brief ten months....we got lightly charged up on politics, voted, and then accepted the outcome and went back to work feeling "ok but mostly unchanged". Something happened over the past forty years. Something stepped into our house, our lives and our future....and got us all charged up on politics. Its like "March Madness" all year round now.

What do I really take home from this entire C-SPAN blog? First, if you ever blog C-SPAN in the future.....and want to make just a simple comment....always refer to them as "C-SP*N"....that way, only your close-hold readers read the commentary......and maybe some grandma who wrong keyed on her blog search pattern. Second, there are a small number of younger guys with a fetish for butt-cracks who do watch "C-SP*N" (I'm thinking you older gals over 60 don't have that fetish....but maybe I'm wrong). Third, and final....if at all possible....criticize that Keith Olbermann dude, the Red Sox, or some Mexican soap opera if all all possible before you even make any comment over C-SP*N.

Above all things.....remember, C-SP*N is the "Holy Grail". Now if you don't mind...I'm turning the channel back over for my twelve hour dose of Gunsmoke and Bonanza.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Al on Ice

Up in Fairbanks, some folks did a five-ton statue of Al Gore, in ice.

It looks mighty fine.

The only thing is....will global warming melt Al?

The answer is.....well....we will just have to wait and see. I'm having hopes that global cooling will help save Al, one way or another.

Biodiesel and Stupidity

NOTE: Update at bottom!

I have no confidence in people to grasp and understand environmental science and real science. In today's news, up in the Bloomington district of Minnesota, they decided to close the district schools.

The state had apparently mandated the use of biodiesel.....but what the idiots had thought about....when it gets cold enough.....biodiesel will clog up. Naturally, Minnesota got cold enough.

The state had tried to run the buses, but kept having problems in keeping them up and running. Naturally, the buses got behind schedule....in freezing weather....and a bunch of kids got all froze up.....which naturally upset a number of parents. So far, the smart science guys and the environmental folks are keeping their mouth shut.

For those who aren't aware.....once you get way down in the temperature...biodiesel is kinda like jelly. Normally.....just 15 or 20 degrees won't do the trick. You'd have to be down below zero or more. In Bama or Texas...it would hardly ever happen. In Montana or Minnesota...this might occur a dozen days out of the year. So its hard to imagine how these environmentalists in the state sold everyone on this idea, and didn't explain all the science involved, but then....they really don't know the science.

UPDATE:

Based on continuing analysis of the fuel mix....the mixture of parafin in the normal diesel (the 98 percent side)...was the trigger to the freezing of the fuel......NOT the 2 percent bio-mixture.

The curious thing....who approved this particular mixture in this region....is unknown. The rest of the state? No one is saying much on problems....yet they had the same weather and temps. I'm thinking that they bought their mixture from one dealer.....a small-time guy....and there was something of a discussion on the mix....and this was the "fix". Bio-diesel isn't exactly a huge money-maker or massive requirement.

So bio-diesel isn't dead....it just needed a moment of reality.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The Obama Speech

"For the world has changed, and we must change with it."

Bluntly, its average and if graded, I'd give it a "B". I sat watching for commentary from media folks.....but they polished over some things and went right onto the next topic. Remarkable? No....average, at best.

I think most of us were expecting that once in a lifetime speech.....and this just wasn't it. Maybe thats ok. Maybe we had too high of a expectation. The reality is....we really don't care about the speech and the guy could have read off Jimmy Carter's speech and we would have been happy enough.

So life goes on, and there will be analysis upon analysis of this speech...and "change" will be simply a part of the recognition of the speech. The only humorous thing is that by the words of the day.....whenever the world changes.....we change with it....kinda like daylight savings time, but better, I guess.

Monday, 19 January 2009

The Stimulus Package

For some odd reason, some folks woke up and decided to build up a web page and a information portal on the stimulus package.

The site? readthestimulus.org.

Curiously, they actually have started reading it, and comprehending it. Page 228 for example...some folks suddenly found that a billion dollars is set aside for community development. basically a block grant....of one billion dollars. No, its never going to be returned....unlike the bank loans that you kept seeing....this is purely a give-away.

On page 219, congress sat aside $800 million for fast rail service. Again, its not a loan....its a bulk money pot. The best part? You can actually ask for the money strictly to do surveys or studies, just for a year or two of engineer research. The $800 million has nothing to do with real fast rail service construction unless folks came and asked for it....but be realistic....for any city, you'd need $500 million minimum.

$50 million was reserved for youthbuild (a concept that the government readily admits that no results have ever been shown....either positive or negative). $750 million is reserved for job training for "emerging industry sectors" (it could mean energy, but it could also mean a new Lego block sector as well). Please note, none of these are loans like you thought with the banking sector....the vast amount is simply open-end grants that the money will be dumped no matter what.

At the end of the day....that $750 billion was simply a bucket of money to hand out....and little else. It made congress and the senate look good....but the money is basically gone and the majority will never be returned. Will the folks come back for more? Yes....that is the only thing that is guaranteed about this entire episode. A drunk always comes back for more.

Millions to Waste

I rarely chat on baseball...because I've come to dislike the business of baseball so much. Today, there is another example of how the business of baseball is draining the blood out of the system.

There was this outfielder for the Atlanta Braves...Andruw Jones, who won 10 Gold Gloves as the Braves’ center fielder before signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 2008 season. It was a two-year contract. As great as Jones was...there was this question mark about his ability to stay healthy and contribute. He should have been offered a six-year deal...at the peak of his career. He wasn't offered that kind of deal.

So he appeared last season at Dodgers training camp....severely overweight...he said thirty to forty pounds....I'm think eighty pounds would have been the appropriate guess. I'm thinking the guy weighed near 280 pounds. Jones had to undergo knee surgery in May, and hit a career-low .158 with three homers, 14 RBIs and 76 strikeouts in 209 at-bats. The Dodgers came up at the end of the season...wanting desperately to dump him...but no one would take trade bait.

So this past week, they released him and owe him $22.1 million. This is the lousy business of baseball. They come to hate or dislike a player so much...that they have to dump the guy, and he walks away with millions.

So this weekend....the old team...the Braves...are sitting there. They are asking themselves if the guy will lose fifty pounds over the winter and become a everyday player....and then, if they offered him anything....it probably won't be more than the $400,000 minimum that the league maintains as the base price for a player per year.

He keeps the $22 million, no matter what. Its Dodger money...lost money....and the fans there ought to fire the management...but they won't.

If I were the guy? I'd hire a personal trainer for two months....limit myself to 1500 calories a day....run five miles a day. I'd do this....because I could make millions playing baseball. Whether or not he's that smart.....I'd have personal doubts.

Baseball is screwed up. They have players by the dozens who are in this category. They bring them in on five-year deals. The guy barely delivers on the first two....screws up season three and four, and then has a decent fifth season. I could never own a team because of this way of business.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

The Lincoln Strategy

For the past two weeks...the media has been blitzing the public with a new expression...."the Lincoln strategy". Its the Obama phrase which immedately makes everyone feel good, because Lincoln was so good. There is this 90 second explanation by a journalist and everyone believes the entire story that the guy gives, and America is now feeling comfortable in that Lincoln is taking office....not Obama

I'm a historian. I sat and laughed at the strategy, and the entire 90 second history of Lincoln given out. The public is buying this like a bottle snake-oil in the late 1800s. Most of this strategy and the 90 second explanation are bogus.

Lincoln won the Republican primary because he set up a platform of only one significant value....end of slavery throughout the entire US, period. There was not much of anything else that the platform contained that you'd even discuss a year later....let alone 100 years later.

The Republican convention win meant only one thing to the Democratic convention that came next....the hardcore Democrats wanted a platform of exact opposition....which Stephen Douglas (the chosen one, and the anticipated winner) simply could not agree to. He wanted the exact same platform as the previous ten Democratic winners....slavery was bad and would be worked upon (course, with no results). It was a simple platform that Douglas could have worked out of and won the election. The hardcore southern Democrats refused....and in the end....put up another party of sorts, with another southerner of sorts....whose platform was the anti-Lincoln platform.

Lincoln won and walked into office, with one agenda only....which he knew without doubt would split the country. A divider? Yes, with no doubt.

The cabinet posts? This is the amusing thing. Lincoln had no real pull or power within the Republican party, so he was put into the position of hiring all insiders. They each had an agenda or a special lobby group behind them. If you had to pick a group of unspired Republicans for any president to manage...this was it. They had no respect for the president or his agenda.

The war? If you added up all of the screw-ups by the Union Army and the Cabinet....with various special agenda players in congress and the Senate....it was a disaster. If the south had any support at all from England or France....the war was theirs to win....but neither choose to get involved (it was the wrong time and wrong reason). Had the war occurred in 1845? Its more likely that England or France would have involved themselves.....which would have been a totally different outcome.

The soap opera as Lincoln is assassinated? His legend is concreted at this point. The newspapers write entire special editions to publish his glory, and the nation buys off totally....then the game of VP Johnson starts....where no one on the Cabinet or the Senate have respect for him. Whatever weak vice-president strategy that Lincoln had....was a total failure. Johnson could never climb out of this pit, and was left to fight fight political battles rather than lead the nation.

So the Obama "Lincoln strategy"? You hire a bunch of top of the line former Clinton insiders to run the cabinet. The majority don't really worship your agenda or your plan. They will have various players in the senate and house to work up a totally different package than what the president envisions. You don't really worry much about this because you really have the experience to lead a major group anyway.

Lincoln's entire legacy is built upon one topic only....slavery. The Obama period? There are around forty different legacy topics that people talk about now....which makes you laugh how anyone could associate Obama with Lincoln.

Lincoln choose to divide the country...in the interest of our future. Obama? Its curious....he advertises his plans and agenda as a "uniter" in nature.

None of this makes much sense...unless you really like the 90-second media blitz and perfer not to ask stupid questions. And if you did....don't expect the CNN guy to respond...it'll just confuse him more.

United State of Organized America

In the past week, in the midst of inauguration week....the President-elect has announced the forming of a new group. The name for the group? "Organizing for America".

Apparently, as the president says: "As President, I will need the help of all Americans to meet the challenges that lie ahead. That's why I'm asking people like you who fought for change during the campaign to continue fighting for change in your communities."

So in plain speak, this is the effort to take the political power that surged up in the campaign effort...which would normally shrink down and settle back into normalcy for four years until the next campaign....and instead keep them on the trail.

For the past five or six years....its was bad enough that there was a continual democrat versus republican war going on....with Sunday chat shows offering a stage for verbal missiles to be flung left and right...but now, "Organized America" to take on any and all opposition....for possibly the next eight years?

I kept thinking of that wonderful phrase of how people would work together and make agendas meet somewhere in the middle. There would be a "norm". There would be efforts to stop all of the fighting. Instead, we get fighting 2.0 instead.

Instead of stopping the vast left view and vast right view...this effort simply adds fuel to the fire. Its hard to see how it would benefit anyone but those who guide the president's agenda. There is no middle ground while some "Organized America" pumps its might.

Its amusing...I kinda had some hopes there for about a month. Maybe things would go the way as General Powell had suggested. Maybe some quiet period could be found, and we could wean the public off the political fight. At this point, I see chaos, turmoil and continued fighting. Every senate seat and every congressional seat now matters in 2010. Its as though the election never ended now. This is the sad woeful state of America tonight.

Real Science, Sort Of

I saw this over at FreeRepublic, and felt it was worth keeping. Its science, for the non-science types. Alot of us went through school...pretended we learned something in science...and by 19...had forgotten everything. Sadly, we are making our way through life today, with the help of NASA scientists, engineers, and dimwit environmentalists who keep us well informed. So this is what you really should know:

1. H2O is hot water and CO2 is cold water.

2. To collect fumes of sulphur, hold a deacon over a flame in a test tube.

3. When you smell an odorless gas, it is probably carbon monoxide.

4. Water is composed of two gins - Oxygin and Hydrogin. Oxygin is pure gin and Hyrogin is water and gin.

5. A super saturated solution is one that holds more water than it can hold.

6. Litre : A nest of young puppies.

7. Magnet: Something you find crawling all over a dead cat.

8. Momentum: What you give a person when they are going away.

9. Vacuum: A large empty space where the Pope lives.

10. Artificial insemination is when the farmer does it to the cow instead of the bull.

11. The pistol of the flower is its only protection against insects.

12. A fossil is an extinct animal. The older it is, the more extinct it is.

13. To remove dust from the eye, pull the eye down over the nose.

14 . For a nosebleed, put the nose much lower than the heart until the heart stops.

15. For head colds, use an agonizer to spray the nose until it drops in your throat.

16. Germinate: To become a naturalized German.

17. The tides are a fight between the Earth and moon. All water tends towards the moon, because there is no water on the moon and nature abhors a vacuum. I forget where the sun joins in the fight.

18 . Blood flows down one leg and up the other.

19. When you breath, you inspire. When you do not breath, you expire.

20. Nitrogen is not found in Ireland because it is not found in a free state.

21. Three kinds of blood vessels are arteries, vanes and caterpillars.

22. Mushrooms always grow in damp places and so they look like umbrellas.

23. To keep milk from turning sour: Keep it in the cow.

24. A vibration is a motion that cannot make up its mind which way it wants to go.

25. Genetics explain why you look like your father and if you don't why you should.

26. Some people can tell what time it is by looking at the sun. But I have never been able to make out the numbers.

27. We say the cause of perfume disappearing is evaporation. Evaporation gets blamed for a lot of things people forget to put the top on.

28. To most people solutions mean finding the answers. But to chemists solutions are things that are still all mixed up.

29. In looking at a drop of water under a microscope, we find there are twice as many H's as O's.

30. I am not sure how clouds get formed. But the clouds know how to do it, and that is the important thing.

31. Cyanide is so poisonous that one drop of it on a dogs tongue will kill the strongest man.

32. Isotherms and isobars are even more important than their names sound.

33. Wind is like the air, only pushier.

34. The process of turning steam back into water again is called conversation.

35. Algebraical symbols are used when you do not know what you are talking about.

Your Typical DC Problem


There are three things you come to Washington DC for: to shake hands with dimwit political figures, to bribe dimwit political figures, and to find a hooker.

I realize some of you will argue that there are fantastic museums there...that the FBI employs thousands there....and that its our nation's landmark. But think for a while about my comments.

This week, the DC cops came around....along 5th and I Streets, and put up signs say: "Warning, Prostitution Free Zone."

With Obama day on Tuesday....its critical to have the streets "clear"...if you know what I mean. The cops are willing to fine anyone doing hooker business $300 and jail them. The question here...will the city's clean up for day or two save the purity of the city when the two million arrive?

Most of the guys who live along these streets will readily admit that hookers are a major problem. Course, no one asked them if senators using hookers were a problem....but if they had....I'm sure the guys would have smiled and said that was a problem too.

The one hooker that did comment to the media....calling herself Tamira....says that most hookers will ignore the signs. Tamira also kinda commented that some folks may come to the inauguration for legitimate reasons but hook on the side for some extra cash. How many of two million might do that? Thats a curious question. I'm thinking at least a thousand.

If you can imagine Marda Gras, in broad daylight....with ten percent of the inauguration drunk or stoned...thats the picture of DC on Tuesday. I'm pretty sure the cops will arrest at least fifty hookers on Tuesday...just to say that they tried to keep things neat and tidy. Hopefully, the senators can stay busy and not think so much about sex.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Torture, Period

This past week, thanks to the handshake-hearings in DC with new Obama players....we got the entire topic of torture back on the front burner. Basically....the new attorney general has agreed in absoluteness that torture is simply wrong, and won't be tolerated. The news media is saying that the President-elect will immediately give out an order to halt all torture on day one of his administration.

For several years, I've been in the category of questioning any effective nature of torture by the CIA. Here, I will note....there are degrees of torture....from limiting a guy to certain foods or putting certain scents in his cell....to waterboarding. The more drastic episodes....are not really delivering what people think. You can ask any expert from the 1950/1960 period....and they will all admit that extreme torture delivers nothing but questionable statements. A guy will admit to anything....even make up stories....to end extreme torture. The value frankly, is zero.

How the Bush administration, Rumsfeld, and an entire group of CIA wits came to the opposite conclusion....is a good question to ask. Cheney himself will proudly boast that it has made a difference. My humble guess is that someone briefed him about one bit of admission during a torture and he took it to be 4-star information. The briefer probably didn't mention to him that 99 other bits of information was of no value and fabricated.

The potential of taking these guys who were tortured in any measure to court? I think its virtually zero now. Most judges don't want a tainted trial....even if they are military judges.

Is torture to be completely forbidden now? No....they will go back to the odd episodes of bland food, Ozzy Osborne music, pictures of Barney on the wall, video of Madonna grabbing her crotch, and guards wearing bunny suits....to bring these guys to their knees. The truth is....even as the Nazis came to admit....simply being nice and giving "favors" to gain "favors"....is likely to be the best method of torture.

Honestly, we torture kids each day in America by putting them in classrooms with deranged teachers. We have verbal torture with the PTL or 700 Club each day via the TV. We have Aunt Mona who shows up wearing a tube top and drunk at the family dinner each night. We have bosses who put us through 3-hour meetings to discuss the color of a new product. We have Coke trying to sneak in various new ingredients which aren't natural and trigger serious gas attacks. We have Ford making cars which are broke six weeks out of the year, and the dimwit mechanics unable to explain why the brakes only work 98 percent of the time. We have septic tanks which overflow and create havoc in our yards. All of these....ARE torture. Have no doubt.....we live with torture on a daily basis. Just filling out a damn absentee ballot.....can be torture for a 75-year old Republican guy who is blind and his wife is a hardcore democrat.

Does this magnificent change do anything to hinder the "war"? No. Tomorrow....somewhere in the midst of a mountain pass in Afghanistan....some dimwit is planning another attack on America....which involves a dozen Islamic women and probable carbombs. If that fails.....next week, another guy will plan a episode in Paris. This is the one thing we can count on....you haven't made a dent in the entire process....they are still planning.

Porta-Hell, DC

There are now five thousand porta-potties based in Washington DC, for the relief of folks visiting on Tuesday. They are various colors and shapes....from ten different vendors. This is supposed to help two million people.

I did the math. By ten that morning....I have serious doubts that this will be sufficient. There will be troubles.

There is also the threat of hundreds of teenagers tipping over porta-potties, with people trapped inside. Some folks will freak out while the mess in the bottom gets all over them and they run around in front of cameras with crap (literally) over all them. I can just imagine some CNN analyst weeping over the shame, the shame, the shame.

For you guys showing up on Tuesday....I wish you alot of luck. You'll need it. Don't drink coffee until the late afternoon....otherwise, you might be stuck on the pot. Don't expect them to be heated, while the temperature hovers around 36 degrees. If you do visit....carry some heavy disinfectant and spray like its Honduras in the spring. Carry some toilet paper with you because people from DC will likely steal whats in the facility. For those looking for a neat place to have five minutes of hot lust with your girlfriend....don't do it....don't even think about it.

Friday, 16 January 2009

How the Mighty Will Fall

In about a week...the news media will get a shift in focus. For five years, they've been out selling opposition to just about anything connected to the administration or the functions of the US government.

Chris Mathews and Keith Olbermann have made their brilliant emergence as the "bad-boys" of the media, to gain a vast (well....at least enough viewers to counter a WWE wrestling match on Monday night) audience. CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, and MSNBC have all built a huge focus and got great numbers on playing the negative side of the Bush administration.

The plain truth is that opposition and negative reporting sell....kinda like the National Enquirer. Folks want to see this kind of stuff. They want a hard ass piece of journalism.

So in a month or so....as viewer numbers start to fade for the "bad-boys", and MSNBC has meetings to determine how they regain viewers who are turning off the TV and gardening....the only real answers are: fire the hight cost guys then wait eight years for something to develop, or go negative on Obama and his team. In the beginning....they will try to puff up every piece and make people feel good. But the numbers just won't be good after a month or two.

So something strange will develop.....Fox will find "negativity" sells....and gains on the opposition. At some point....one of the other networks will go negative, and find growth overnight. The remaining guys....perhaps even Keith Olbermann....will eventually have to go negative in some fashion.

I realize this is slaming the American dream that so many have had for the past twelve months.....but the fact is....we buy negativity now....not positive marks. This is the sad truth of America in 2009.

Criticism wags the tail. Harsh words gain respect. Negative reports mean profits. I know this is silly and you'd like to think otherwise....but ponder this: after Cinderella finally married her guy....was there anything left for the local media to report on after that point?

Bama: Fireplaces and Winter

When my dad built his "new" house in the mid 1960s....there was no fireplace....just central heat. He simply didn't have much of an appreciation for fireplaces or messing with them. My introduction to fireplaces was at my granddad's place. From early November, until early April....they kept the fireplace running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No central heat, just a plain fire. The bathroom had some kinda of electrical heat, but the rest of the house was based off this living room fireplace.

I came to have a dislike similar to my dads on this deal. You had to tote in coal and firewood, and clean out the ashes. But after all of this was done....especially, if wood was used...this was this wonderful scent in the room.

Around twenty years ago....my dad came to grasp the price of natural gas was going up and he staged a shocker....adding a fireplace or contained unit....to the house. Naturally, he frowned on coal....and took to firewood. So he runs this on awful cold days and uses the central air unit sparingly.

I've never been lucky to live in a house or have my own place with a fireplace. I did have that Denmark house once....where I had to run the fireplace in the midst of July because temperatures got down into the low fifties at night.

If ever given a chance....I'd like to think I'd buy a house with a fireplace. Naturally.....I'd frown on coal, and do the wood business....just to have that smell in the house. There are some things, which I come to think of....in the midst of winter....of Bama and life there. This is one of those things. A fireplace adds life....character....charm...to a house. Its a natural heat....that you like to feel. So on these awful damn cold Arctic evenings in Germany....there is something that I'd like to acquire....and you know what it is.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Art Criticism


Being from Bama, I'm not supposed to critique art....some kind of state law, I think.

I was waltzing around the web today, and saw this work of art, and found myself staring it for a while, pondering. Frankly, the art critic in me, suddenly came out.

I realize the artist here....had some kind of twitch or was a bit disturbed....maybe even had a bit too much to drink on a Friday night. I'd like to avoid upsetting some artist gal who might dump a ton of stuff on me.....accusing me of being deficient and without any art knowledge. Frankly, I'll do her the favor and admit this problem....here and now.

So I have three interpretations here. The first...as the everlasting Obama has ridden the unicorn up to the mighty junction of the city....a grizzly bear (like meaning Governor Palin of Alaska) has tipped over the unny, and the everlasting Obama must wrestle the grizzly on the main street.

The second interpretation? The artist may have dumped the donkey symbol and let the unicorn represent the new democratic party.....while the grizzly represents the new republican party, with some Obama dude mostly undressed just hanging on for his life as they fight it out.

The third and final interpretation? Obama is fighting imaginary characters.....in a imaginary land....with the imaginary media viewing this....and he'll wake up in a minute to find it was all just a dream.

There is a reason why God didn't want me as the New York Times art dimwit. I couldn't have drunk enough whiskey to come up with puffy art criticisms. Its hard enough to criticize the Braves....but art?

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Coffee Freaks

Reports today indicate.....consuming seven cups of coffee a day....could make you more likely to see, hear and smell things that aren’t there. The numbers here...from British researchers show those who drink at least 330 milligrams of the caffeine stimulant a day were three times as likely to have hallucinations as those who consumed less than 10 milligrams a day.

I sat and pondered this. I was safe...never consuming more than two cups a day.

The bad thing...is that I know folks who consume seven cups a day. It gave me a bad feeling...kinda like sitting in a place with a bunch of potential zombies.

So I started to wonder about folks who claim to be kidnapped by aliens and UFOs...or they've personally seen Bigfoot or Nessie. Not that it might matter...but if we asked them about coffee consumption, and they agreed they were doing seven cups a day....would this make think less of their claim?

Years ago, when I was in Panama...I came across this Army sergeant who asked a friend to pick up some "real" Colombian coffee....the heavy duty stuff, while they were in Colombia. So the guy comes back...with four containers of this heavy-duty coffee. She began to use the stuff daily. She went from five cups a day to eight cups....all within two weeks. By the third week....she was doing ten cups a day. She was starting to freak out....saying things and thinking things that were way out of the norm. Her husband got concerned...as did her boss. They finally drove her over to the military hospital mental health unit. She was going nuts. The doc checked her out and after a couple of tests....mandated that she spend a week in their hospital unit...detoxing. A week later, without any coffee for a week...she was normal.

I'm wondering if coffee ought to be dealt out like a prescription....but I'm thinking you coffee drinkers will go ballistic and chase me out of the house.

Students and Teachers

Today, out of Washington state.....a legal decision was issued.

Teachers are not barred from having consensual sex with 18-year-old students.

The guy involved....a teacher...Matthew Hirschfelder...was charged with first-degree sexual misconduct. His challenge to the entire case...was that the student involved....was already 18, so she couldn't be a minor.

So a judge panel met and they unanimously agreed that the case should be dismissed.

Naturally, a bunch of folks are upset about this. A student is a student.....in their eyes. This guy is kinda correct in my eyes.....the girl is 18 and of legal age.

Course, I could see a mad rush here by the 40 to 50 year old teachers....to make their pass on some 18-year old girl in the school. So we need to do here...is make a simple law. Teachers ought to be limited to sex with strictly adults over the age of 50....either male or female....to ensure the purity of American teachers. I realize this is going to upset a number of teachers.....but there are an awful lot of teachers in their fifties missing out on this hot lusty sex stuff, and we need to ensure some kind of equality here. Just my take on the situation.

Dear Abby

Almost daily, I read Dear Abby. Most of the time....its something to forget. Today, there were two items...that I desperately wanted to respond to. So I am including both letters, and then I am including "my response" to each lady.

DEAR ABBY: I am a female who is "over 21." I have always been a tomboy. I love to wrestle with my 200-pound boyfriend. Our struggles are vigorous, but never violent, and always end with a kiss or more.

My friends are horrified. They say I could be injured and that any man who would physically "fight" a woman is a potential wife-beater or worse.

So many people have warned me to "watch out" that now I'm beginning to wonder. To me, it's a good way to have fun and burn off calories. What's your take on this, Abby? -- LOVES TO TUSSLE IN GEORGIA

Dear Wrestle Lady:

Basically, you've got some kinda weird and kinky fetish. Don't advertise to your friends.....because then everyone will want to get into this. Meanwhile, you may need to learn several additional moves and learn to take your fella down as cleanly and as smoothly as possible. Don't let the bast*rd win, at any cost. For those folks who might want to tell you to stop....they aren't getting any enjoyment out of life. Americans have all always been wrestlers and they are born to wrestle. So don't any puny wussy tell you otherwise. If you have to.....slam them with the Ric Flair move.

DEAR ABBY: I don't know what to do anymore. It seems like I hate everything, but I don't think I'm depressed.

I hate working, but love my salary. I hate my co-workers, but realize they're probably no worse than any other workplace. Nothing excites me, nothing motivates me. I don't like anything in particular and have never known what I wanted to do with my life. I don't want to be married or have children. I often wonder what the point of living is. I feel like I'm living every day just to get to the end of life.

I'm sure I'm not alone. Please help me and others out there who seem to have lost hope. -- NOT HAPPY IN CANADA

Dear Canada Lady:

Basically, this happens to all Canadians eventually. They don't have the drive or ambition to get anywhere in life. Between the snow, hockey, lousy beer, no social life and two weeks of summer....its a lousy life. What you need to do, is pack up your gear....get in the truck....and drive south. Bama is likely the best place for a person of you to be. It'll twist and turn your life around....giving you energy, religion, and the Braves. You haven't lost hope.....you've just become too Canadian to really live. Dump that big "C" stuff and get a life.

Naturally, its a good thing that I ain't Dear Abby....because this would turn into a daily and full-time job, thus taking away from my blog.